A Sardinian classic, fregola is most popularly served in a seafood stew or like this, with clams. Making fregola by hand is actually very quick and easy. It's a rustic pasta, so no need to be too precise, but if you find that you can't quite get the balls of pasta small enough, you can try doing this on a wooden board (the texture helps and the wood absorbs more moisture). Also, you can add a spoonful or two of regular all-purpose flour to the semolina when it feels too moist and you risk getting large clumps. You can also use store-bought fregola in this delicious clam stew.
This sauce recipe is inspired by one from the Slow Food restaurant Il Caminetto in Cabras, Sardinia, although they tend to use a handful of sun-dried tomatoes in place of the tomato passata (or a whole fresh chopped tomato) here. —Emiko
1 1/4 cups
(200 grams) semolina or durum wheat flour
water, or as needed
(1 kg) clams
garlic clove, finely chopped
small onion, finely chopped
parsley, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
dry white wine
(250 ml) tomato passata (you can also substitute with a whole fresh tomato, chopped)
water or as needed
In This Recipe
Pour the semolina flour into a wide shallow ceramic bowl or onto a wooden surface (wood is an ideal material for this as it tends to add some traction as you rub the liquid into the egg).
Combine the yolk, water, and salt in a small bowl. Dribble a teaspoon of the egg mixture onto the semolina, and with the fingertips of one hand, drag the liquid through the semolina to create little, irregular-shaped balls. Dribble and drag, rubbing the egg mixture into the flour in a circular motion, until all the flour or all the egg is used up. If you find the mixture feels too moist, a spoonful or two of regular flour can be added to avoid clumping.
Heat oven to 150° C/300° F. Place the fregola in a single layer on a baking tray and bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until they feel dry to the touch. You can also leave them out, uncovered, for several days to dry naturally. Let cool.
Rinse the clams and remove any with broken shells. If you need to purge the clams (if they haven't already been purged and de-sanded where you bought them), at about 1 hour before you plan on cooking them, place the clams in a large, wide shallow dish such as a lasagne tray, cover with an inch of salt water (for 4 cups of fresh water, 2 tablespoons of salt, which is similar to the salinity of seawater). Let the clams purge 1 hour at most. Discard the water, being careful not to pour the filtered grit back over the shells. In a wide skillet, open the clams over high heat. A tight-fitting lid helps this along, it should take a few minutes of shaking the pan to move them around and let the ones on the bottom come to the top to open. When they've opened, turn off heat and strain the liquid produced from the clams—set this aside. Remove the clams from their shells (save a handful in their shells for garnish, if you like). Set aside.
In the same pan, saute the garlic, onion, and parsley with the olive oil over low heat until the onion is translucent and soft. Add the white wine and turn the heat to medium-high. Let the alcohol cook off for a few minutes, then add the tomato, along with the clam water. Bring to the boil then turn down to a low simmer. Let cook for about 10 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.
At this point, you can add the fregola (you can also use store-bought fregola, though you may need to check the cooking times recommended on the packet), along with 1 cup of water or as needed. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a low simmer and cook, uncovered, for 10-12 minutes or until the fregola is cooked through. You are looking for a mixture that is the texture of risotto—soupy but not too stiff/solid. You may need to add a splash of water if the mixture gets too thick and the fregola are still too al dente. Add the clams at the very end to heat through, then serve immediately.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.